Agricultural Licensing Rounds for Foreign Investors

By Salam Zidane for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq considers proposal of agricultural licensing rounds for foreign investors

On Oct. 23, the Iraqi parliament’s agricultural committee reported that Iraq imports more than 75% of its vegetables and animal products.

Meanwhile, agriculture experts conducted a study that they presented to the Cabinet on Oct. 22, calling for organizing agricultural licensing rounds to save the agricultural sector from its miserable situation and putting an end to the foreign currency pullout by inviting foreign companies to invest in agricultural land.

On July 19, the Ministry of Agriculture estimated the cultivated land in the country for 2015 at nearly 6 million acres, while the overall arable land is 52 million acres. Agriculture contributes about 7% to the gross domestic product (GDP), which has reached, according to the World Bank, $168.6 billion; this is considered to be a very low percentage, especially since Iraq is classified as an agricultural, oil-rich country.

The person behind the idea of agricultural licensing rounds and inviting international companies to invest in Iraq, agricultural expert Riad Farhan Abdul Karim, told Al-Monitor, “The country is suffering from the agriculture sector’s failure because it still follows methods used by the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians when it comes to agriculture and irrigation. Developing this important sector is everyone’s responsibility.”

He said, “I have presented a comprehensive study to the government about agricultural licensing rounds. The government welcomed the idea and said it will be studying it in the coming days, but we are still waiting. For agriculture to prosper, we need to improve how workers do their jobs, increase land production and use modern methods. This can only be done by bringing in international companies.”

Al-Monitor contacted the Ministry of Agriculture, asking the status of the proposal in the Cabinet. A senior adviser in the ministry told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that it has received the proposal and asked the council of ministers to discuss it in the Cabinet. He said the ministry approved the proposal and that it now needs Cabinet approval; then it could be passed by the parliament.

Iraq succeeded in organizing licensing rounds for oil in 2009, when it was exporting 1.9 million barrels per day, in an attempt to increase production in 2017 to about 13 million barrels per day. So far, it has only produced 4.7 million barrels a day.

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